Senators divided over Visa on arrival policy, summon Aregbesola

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The Senate on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, over the recent visa on arrival policy for Africans coming into Nigeria

The Federal Government had, on Dec.12, approved that all Africans could come into Nigeria without visa from Jan. 2020.

The resolution was sequel to a motion sponsored by Sen. Adewunmi Adetunbi (APC-Ekiti North) during the plenary.

The motion is entitled “Urgent need to seek domestication of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement by an act of the National Assembly prior to the implementation of the proposed Visa-on-Arrival for citizens of African countries as recently directed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)”.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister is to appear with the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede, before the Senate Committees on Interior Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

NAN reports that they are to inform the upper chamber on the technical, logistics, legal and constitutional issues that were available and required for compliance before the implementation of the said visa on arrival policy.

Moving the motion, Adetunbi said that the policy was in furtherance of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that was signed by Nigeria in July.

“We are aware that Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution as altered and the Treaties-Making Procedures Act 1993 requires that as a requisite, the National Assembly ought to enact legislation for the purpose of giving effect to all treaties after their ratification by the president of Nigeria or other members of the executive arm of government.

“Neither the Federal Executive Council (FEC) nor a member of the National Assembly has yet submitted to the National Assembly a bill for the domestication of the said African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“The agreement is a necessary prerequisite before its implementation. Therefore, it is premature constitutionally and legally impossible for the provisions of the said agreement to have any effect within the territory of Nigeria.

“The National Assembly has not delegated its powers of legislation to the domestication of international treaties and agreements under Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution to either the president of the Federal Republic or to the Nigeria Immigration Service or any other agency,” he said.

Adetunbi raised concerns that the national security of Nigeria in the context of the current insurgency could be jeopardised.

Seconding the motion, Sen. Abba Moro (PDP-Benue South), said that when international agreements were entered into by Nigeria, they should be properly domesticated to give it a bit of legality and legitimacy.

“The visa aspect of this agreement needs to be looked into very closely and critically. I support this need for domestication.

“There are two clear things; there is Visa-on-Arrival and there is Free Visa. What the president said recently that I know is free visa for Africans to enter Nigeria.

“Visa-on-Arrival is a policy that has been embraced by the NIS since 2012 and that means that if for whatever reason you are unable to get a visa from your country of origin, you can fill the necessary forms and get to the airport or point of entry and get your visa,” he said.

Moro who was one time Minister of Interior further explained that the issue being debated on was that of free entry visa for Africans.

“As part of the African Free Trade Arrangement, it needs an act of the National Assembly to back it up. I think we should take steps to do that,” he said.

Similarly, Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe, who said that a lot of Nigerians were really worried with the proposed policy noted that the reason for the worry was because of the spate of insecurity in the country.

“And for us having known that part of the insecurity came from elements coming outside and into Nigeria to now have a visa policy that doesn’t seem to be properly regulated was giving a lot of people a lot jitters because what it meant was that anybody could just come in and actually cause mayhem in Nigeria not knowing the result.

In his remarks, Ahmad Lawan said that there were other treaties that Nigeria was a signatory.

“I think as a country, the Attorney-General of the Federation should be able to forward those agreements to the National Assembly for us to file them appropriately and give them the legal backing that they require,” Lawan said.

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